Mourning Our Loss of Civility

Those of us who are in positions of leadership should be grieving a virtue that has been lost in our country. We have lost our civility as a nation. The loss of this indispensable virtue is not to be taken lightly. It is appropriate to grieve, and to mourn such a loss, because our civility as a nation in the past, has always been the soul of our nation. If the current loss of civility continues at its present pace, it is simply a matter of time before this country is divided beyond repair. Civility has been defined as “polite, reasonable, and respectful behavior.” It has also been defined as “the act of practicing relational courtesy and decency towards others that is marked with kindness, thoughtfulness, and empathy.” In light of these fundamental definitions of civility, coupled with the current state of division in our day, we can all agree—civility has disappeared from our culture. I mourn this reality, and so should every leader who is reading this article.

None of us are surprised at the lack of civility we are presently observing politically. Sadly, it has become the norm to expect our politicians to interact with one another in ways that are marked with uncivil, cruel, ruthless, disrespectful, and vitriolic outbursts. Social media has become a weapon of mass destruction in the uncivil war of words that appear on our electronic devices each day. Countless people hide behind their keyboards and spew out profane, reprehensible, angry, and vicious words that create division, hostility, and relational brokenness. In addition, many have perfected the art of creating, and unleashing slanderous lies that their victims are incapable of refuting. We are living in an age that has lost its civility. It is appropriate to grieve and mourn this loss.

In previous generations, it used to be a priority for parents to teach their children to be polite, and to have appropriate manners in their interactions with others, especially with those who held positions of authority like their teachers, and coaches. Common courtesies like listening to others without interrupting, and responding to others respectfully, were behaviors that were celebrated and rewarded. Unfortunately, choosing rude, impolite, and discourteous attitudes and behaviors have become commonplace in many of our homes, and even in many businesses. We are presently observing that a lack of civility for other human beings, and a lack of respect for the property of others, will inevitably lead to increased aggressiveness, violence, and relational disharmony.

I wish the timeless words, “Blessed are those who mourn” were not as relevant as they are in this hour. As leaders, our grief over the state of our country should not cause us to lose hope about the future of our country, or to disempower us from providing leadership for others. The lack of civility that is accelerating in our country, is a call for leaders in every realm of American life to cultivate the relational quality of empathy in our unique spheres of influence. Empathy is the relational choice to place ourselves in someone else’s shoes, with the intention of emotionally feeling what they feel in the present, or what they have felt in the past. It is totally irrational to think that choosing to communicate in the angry, hateful, and destructive manner so many are presently choosing could ever lead to relational harmony, unity and peace. In closing, may I challenge every leader to consider the type of leadership our country so desperately needs in the words, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” Being a peacemaker is one of the highest callings of leadership. Choose to be a peacemaker, and help to heal our land.